A compassionate employer? Why not?


What do a foot of snow and a compassionate employer have in common? Find out after the jump.

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corner.pngWe got over a foot of snow yesterday. Not that light and fluffy snow. No, what we had was break-your-back-shoveling snow. And my job, when it snows, is to get all of the white off of the pavement in the picture on the right. (Click on the picture. That’s a LOT of sidewalk).

This morning, I got out of bed at 6:30, bundled up, grabbed my shovel, went outside, and started shoveling. By 7:00 AM, I was done. No, I’m not Superman. Rather, a nice gentleman from up the block who owns an incredible snowblower offered to help me out. All it took him was a few passes and he barely broke a sweat. He didn’t have to do anything. But he did it anyway, just to help. 

And you know what? I won’t forget it.

Over the summer, Jon Hyman at the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog had a post entitled “Why Employees Sue.” He referenced a deposition in which he asked an employee why she was suing her employer. Her answer: “They started fighting my unemployment.”

There’s a lesson here for employers. Just because an employee handbook says “x,” it’s okay to do “y,” every one once in a while, even if the employer isn’t legally obligated to do so. In my experience most employees don’t harbor grudges against employers that show compassion by creating exceptions for them when they need a little extra help. 

I can imagine that many local PA, NJ, and DE business have employees who were affected by yesterday’s snowfall. I’m also betting that many of those business have handbooks that require attendance from 9-5. So, should these employers require everyone to trudge through a foot of snow to get in before 9? Or should these employers allow non-essential personnel a few extra hours to arrive safely?

Or what about an employee who has used up all of his FMLA leave taking care of a newborn daughter only to later suffer a serious health condition before accumulating more FMLA leave. What if that employee only needs an extra day or two off. Do you fire him? Or do you give him the time off?

Concerned about how carving out an exception to the employee handbook may open the floodgates to all employees exploiting that exception? I have two responses to that:

    1. An employer with a good reason to create an individual exception can usually justify it should litigation arise; and
    2. Maybe the policy was too restrictive in the first place and needed to be modified.

    Yes, employers. There are times when rules take a backseat to humanity. For as Jon Hyman wrote in “Why Employees Sue”: “These little things could go a long way to an ex-employee reaching the decision to let bygones be bygones and not see you in court.”